dee_burris: (Default)
2014-03-19 06:22 pm

Remembering my Aunt Jean...

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 photo GeorgeWandLouiseBurriswiththeirchildrenBillBurrisWandaNeumannMaryAnnRutherfordandJeanLensing1969.jpg
Jean (far right) with her brother and sisters on the occasion of her parents' 40th wedding anniversary in 1969

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Jean with her mother at her family home, 808 Crittenden Street Arkadelphia

I try not to claim any of my relatives as mine, because they also belong to the rest of my family.

But at the request of one of her daughters, I am remembering my Aunt Jean.

I say unashamedly she was my favorite aunt.
Her full name was Emma Jean Burris Lensing. She was born at home in Arkadelphia, AR on Friday, 12 May 1933.

She was named for her daddy’s favorite sister, the only one of his sisters who survived to become an adult. It’s the name she shared with one of her granddaughters.

When she found out I was delving deeply into our family history, she helped me out with tidbits of information and photographs. She took the news of our philandering forbear without skipping a beat, and readily agreed to take a DNA test to settle the matter of the ethnicity of another.

I asked her about her own childhood in Arkadelphia. Among other things, she told me she grew up knowing she was not “the pretty one.”

I was shocked and told her so. Aunt Jean was always beautiful to me - inside and out.

She was genuinely appreciative of the smallest act of kindness. When she loved you, you knew it, because she told you so. And showed you in some tangible way- like a little card out of the blue, just to say she was thinking of you.

Aunt Jean was all about family. One day,I asked her to tell me about how she and Uncle Tommy met. As she talked, her eyes lit up with love and memories. I always saw the same look on her face when she showed me pictures of her kids and grandkids. And her kids also included her daughters-in-law and son-in-law. She was so proud of all of her family.

She made The. Best. Christmas cookies.

One of my favorite photos of her was taken in the kitchen of her parents’ home at 9th and Crittenden in Arkadelphia on Mother's Day in 1967. Aunt Jean was goofing around with her sisters as they did the dishes after one of those HUGE meals. I’ll always think of that photo as the Burris sisters chorus line.

 photo MaryAnnRutherfordJeanLensingandWandaNeumaninkitchenonCrittendenMay1967.jpg

Aunt Jean was my go-to person for “the rest of the story” about our Burris family history. My Dad had told me about the time as a kid when he got bitten by a rattlesnake while he was fishing. Aunt Jean rode him to the hospital on her bike. When I asked her about it, she furnished a little detail Dad left out. Turns out Dad and his buddy were fishing on a Sunday, strictly forbidden in the G W Burris home.

I can only recall one instance in which Aunt Jean was visibly annoyed with me. It was a few years ago when she and I wrestled for the check at US Pizza. I thought it was a draw - that we had split the check. Imagine my surprise when I looked at my bank statement and saw that in the end, she had won that match. She had US Pizza credit back what I thought they had charged to my card.

We talked about that later. She told me then that if there were such an occasion again, I was to let her buy, and drop the matter.

There really wasn't anything else to say then but yes ma'am.

She smiled and reminded me that both she and I had inherited that mile wide streak of stubbornness known to anyone who is a Burris, marries a Burris,or happens to more than casually cross paths with a Burris. The “Burris bullhead.”
My Aunt Jean finished this part of her journey on 13 Dec 2013.

She was dearly loved,and will be sorely missed. I hope I honor her memory by remembering the past, but living in the present, by being truly appreciative of small things, and always taking the time to say,“I love you.”
She’s left us the legacy of a life well lived.

And we’ll see her on the other side.

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Jean with her youngest granddaughter, Ava
dee_burris: (Default)
2011-07-13 04:41 pm

The details make so much difference

Like many other geneabloggers, I have some Google alerts delivered to my inbox in the never-ending quest to find relevant bits of information about my ancestors and collateral kin.

Today, I skimmed through the alerts in my inbox, and found a really interesting one.

The Tri-County Herald had a reprint of an article originally published on 6 Aug 1973, in which Alta Callaway reminisced about her arrival in Outlook, WA with her parents, and the first winter they spent there in 1910-1911.

The details made it so precious.

There were board sidewalks from the depot to the north end of Outlook. "When you stepped off you stepped into ankle deep dust," she said.

"Everyone carried water from the town well. My husband would carry water for me to do the wash before he would go to work," she said.

I cannot imagine having to carry water from town to do the wash.

And sidewalks were truly a necessity, if you were going to keep your skirt out of "ankle deep dust."
I did a little checking on Alta Callaway.

She was the second wife of Luman Callaway, who was descended from the same Callaway patriarch as I, meaning he was some many-times-removed cousin of mine. The Callaway Family Association Rootsweb file on Peter I's descendants has this entry on Luman Callaway.

Most days, the Google alerts get skimmed and deleted.

Today's was a keeper.
dee_burris: (Default)
2011-05-24 09:23 pm
Entry tags:

My cousin has been digging through 34 year old shoeboxes...


Me, flipping the tassel on 18 May 1977
dee_burris: (Default)
2011-05-21 09:37 am

Sepia Saturday: Passing the torch...

I love this photo.

It's my dad with his grand Uncle Jeff and grand Aunt Margaret.

William Jefferson "Jeff" Burris, my dad, Margaret Jane Burris Moore

I figure that photo was taken when Dad was about 4, so it was probably very shortly before Uncle Jeff died in January 1941.

Margaret lived until 1944.

George and Louise Burris must have made a trip from Arkadelphia back to Russellville with my aunts and my dad.

Like my grandparents, we had generational Burris photos in our scrapbooks for many years, too. Photos of me and my sisters at our grand Aunt Emma's house when our family camped not far from the original James Littleton and Adeline Burris homestead in Pope County.

A lot of those photos were lost in a 100 year flood in December 1982, when a freak tornado ripped through Arkansas and dumped a deluge of water across my ancestral homeplace.

We camped on the homestead over 100 years after James and Adeline must have camped on the homestead while they were building their home.

As a kid, I couldn't appreciate that full circle of family history. I enjoyed fishing off the spillway for perch that Dad used to bait his yo-yos and trotlines, and I loved digging for worms beside Aunt Emma's chicken coop. Dad took me through fields that our ancestors had cleared long ago for planting and I was enthralled by the low stacked stone walls they built as they removed the rocks and loosened the soil for planting.

A new cousin found me this week. We aren't sure yet exactly how close our kinship is, but as we compare notes and sources from our family trees, she is prompting memories.

Thank you, Shirley. I need to remember, and pass it on.

The journey is good.

This is a Sepia Saturday post.
dee_burris: (Default)
2011-01-09 04:53 pm

My cousin's memory of the ledge...

I was talking to my cousin this morning to see if she remembered us having anything like The Pan.

She didn't, but she thought on it for a while.

Here's what she just emailed to me...

I was thinking about your suggestion this morning of something that might outlive us. Right now I can't think of anything we actually have now that we are still using we could pass along to one another.

However, I did think of something - a part of the landscape of the house - that is in a lot of photographs from early life at the Burris home on Crittenden Street to the end in 1980 when grandmother died. I look at this thing every time I drive by the house. It has been the setting for many a photograph and it has held up many a great man, woman and child.

The ledge.

I have attached a photograph from 1978 of Grandmother Burris sitting there - as she must have done numerous times since 1938 when the house was built. I know I sat on it many times, just not sure I was photographed there. No matter how many people were on that porch over the years, there was always someone sitting on the ledge. And only that one ledge - to the right of the front door as you were looking at it from your camera's lens in the front yard. Don't remember seeing anyone on the other - just that one..

In any case, both of those ledges seem to have been a perfect place for potted flowers or plants and I'm sure Grandmother must have thought of that, but they were always kept bare - maybe waiting for the next family member to sit for their photograph on the ledge - or maybe just for sitting as she knew her kids and grandkids did so much.

So this is my contribution. That ledge. Where so many of my loved ones had once been seated for their photograph in front of that beautiful house on Crittenden.


I think you're on to something, cuz...
dee_burris: (Default)
2011-01-03 02:24 pm
Entry tags:

How the toilet tissue killed a marriage...

My grandfather, Jo Duffie Williams, died on 5 Jul 1970. I was a young adult when my grandmother, Doris Geneva Balding, decided to marry again.

It must have been the late 1970s or early 1980s.

It caught the entire family by surprise. Grandma had not indicated she was interested in a man, let alone contemplating marriage.

Regretfully, I do not recall the man's name. He was a widower who lived across the street from my grandmother.

I expect his descendants are glad I've forgotten his name. It's not often that a marriage is destroyed by toilet tissue.

He moved into her house after the quickie marriage.

Things started going south almost immediately.

She had her routine - he was disrupting it by being underfoot.

He questioned her judgement in just about everything. It was very frustrating to her, as she had been the queen for quite a while.

But then, he dared to question her choice of toilet tissue. Why on earth was she spending good money on Northern toilet tissue?

Even today, I can hear the indignation in her voice...

How dare he? She had been using tissue from Northern Paper Mills ever since she had been in charge of running a household. The next thing we knew, he'd probably have a problem with snack and soda crackers from the National Biscuit Company. (Grandma always referred to products with an accompanying credit to the company that manufactured them - and none of that Nabsico twaddle for her...)

There was only one solution.



She phoned her attorney and the deed was done.

And as I had seen her do with every other piece of luck life handed her, she squared her shoulders, and soldiered on...

Of course, when we started to tease her about the marriage destroyed by toilet paper, she always reminded us that an annulment means it never was.

Missing you, Grandma...
dee_burris: (Default)
2010-12-23 04:03 pm

Family Recipe Friday: Grandma Burris' Cream Pie

I don't have many occasions to make this, but today, I did it just for fun.

I didn't have a pie shell, but that's okay, because this is also the base for pretty much any kind of pudding you want. You can also use it for the cooked pudding part of banana pudding, just pour it over your vanilla wafers and sliced bananas and then chill.

And it's an older recipe, so it doesn't fill a deep dish pie shell. Prick the bottom and brown your pie shell before filling, because you don't bake it.

2/3 sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 heaping tbsp flour
2 2/3 cup milk
3 egg yolks

2 tsp butter or margarine (she used butter)
1 1/2 tsp vanilla

Combine sugar, egg yolks, flour and salt in the top of a double boiler. Stir in milk (I usually start with stirring in 2/3 cup pf milk to smooth out all the lumps, then add the rest).

Heat on low, stir constantly. Bring to a boil, cook until thick. (This was the part where I always asked, how much longer do I have to stir? She'd come over and look in the pan, then look at me and say, Stir some more...)

Remove from heat.

Add butter and vanilla.

Refrigerate until set.

And close that refrigerator icebox door. We can't afford to cool the whole house, you know...
dee_burris: (Default)
2010-12-11 07:41 pm

Sentimental Sunday: The lines on the doorframe

In May 2008, central Arkansas was hit hard by tornadoes.

I had a daily reminder of them as I took a shortcut to work through a Little Rock neighborhood that was devastated by those storms.

Trees that are easily older than I were ripped out of the ground and tossed into the street, or onto a neighbor's house. The hop-skip-jump pattern of the tornado was easy to detect by the number of homes that have been torn completely down, and new (replacement) homes built on old foundations. Even three months later in August.

There was one house in particular that I was watching. The owners elected to tear down and start from scratch and they chose a new facade for the new home. It was almost complete, and sat on a corner lot right where I stopped each day, waiting for construction traffic to pass.
Back in the olden days when I was in grade school, one of my friends lived in that house. Her family hosted many a sleep-over there and her older brother used to scare the shit out of us when we "camped out" in the backyard. As I watched the rebuilding process, I wondered if her family still lived there. When we were in the third grade, her older brother died of leukemia in his fifth grade year. It was the first time I had known someone my age who had to deal with the death of a sibling. It made me look a little differently at my own sisters.

On a late August day as I made my way to work and approached the corner, I saw an old man getting out of a truck parked in front of the house. He reached into the bed of the truck and awkwardly heaved out what looked like a board wrapped up in some plastic trash bags. It was raining lightly, and he just stood there in the drizzle, looking at the house. The closer I got to the corner and the stop sign, the more familiar he looked.

So I stopped and parked behind his truck.

Telling myself I was going to scare an old man and make a fool of myself, I got out anyway. I stood a respectful distance away from him, and said what I hoped was his name. When I was a kid, we called all adults Mr. or Mrs. Last Name, and I did the same then.

He looked at me. Didn't recognize me. (It had only been 40 years.) I walked a little closer and told him who I was - at least who I was then.

His eyes lit up and he extended his hand to shake mine. He said, "I'd hug you but I'd have to put this down and I don't want it to get wet."

"This" turned out to be a piece of the kitchen doorframe. When I was a kid, just about every one of my friend's houses had the same one. So did mine.

The one where our parents had us stand up with our backs against it while they marked our height with lines - "My god, how you've grown!" - and put our initials and the date on it. My dad used a carpenter's pencil.

He said there was no choice but to tear the house down and start over. But not completely over.

Because the kitchen doorframe - the side where he marked my friend's changing height, as well as the height of the son he buried at age 11 - had survived the tornado.

So we went down the driveway still covered in sand and construction muck into the unfinished garage. He unwrapped the piece of the doorframe and showed it to me. And took me inside to show me where it would be placed by the carpenters that morning.
I got my hug, and left to go to work. But not before I sat in my car for a few moments with tears running down my face, and gave thanks for daddies who cherish the lines on the doorframe.